Downed 2015 Nunavik flight faced zero visibility, which pilot was unqualified to navigate

Piper Aztec crashed outside Kangirsuk in June 2015, killing three


Three people died after a small aircraft crashed outside Kangirsuk on June 11, 2015. (FILE PHOTO)

Three people died after a small aircraft crashed outside Kangirsuk on June 11, 2015. (FILE PHOTO)

Investigations into a 2015 plane crash in Nunavik that killed three have found the pilot of the private twin-engine aircraft was unqualified to fly in the heavy fog that was likely responsible for the downed flight.

Sometime late on June 11, 2015, the 1970 Piper Aztec went down about two kilometres northwest of Kangirsuk, on Nunavik’s Ungava coast.

The plane’s three occupants died on impact: 77-year-old pilot Jean Robert Corbin of Winnipeg and his two passengers, Robert Drapeau, 48, and his son, Alexandre Veilleux, 23.

Quebec’s coroner’s office report says all three died of multiple blunt-force trauma.

Drapeau, who helped run a construction company in Kangirsuk, chartered the flight from Val d’Or.

The group departed the afternoon of June 11, stopped in La Grande to refuel and departed for Kangirsuk at about 6:30 p.m.

Typically the flight from La Grande to Kangirsuk would take about three hours—the group was expected to arrive at about 9:20 p.m.

Witnesses interviewed after the crash say they heard the aircraft—but couldn’t see it—flying over the community at about 9:30 p.m. that night and again between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Witnesses did not hear the impact of the crash.

Another aircraft in flight received an Emergency Locator Transmitter signal at about 11:30 p.m. But it wasn’t until the following morning, on June 12, that a Canadian Armed Forces’ Hercules spotted the wreckage and technicians parachuted to the site.

All three victims were located at the scene and declared deceased.

Complete cloud cover over Kangirsuk the night of crash

As soon as Corbin and his passengers left La Grande airport, the weather deteriorated, and a thick fog moved in.

On the evening of June 11, another pilot who had landed in Kangirsuk at around 7 p.m. noted the ceiling was at 400 feet and visibility was less than three miles.

While it would have remained light out until almost midnight at that time of year, a helicopter pilot parked in the community’s airport said that by 9 p.m. that night, visibility was nil.

But the coroner’s report found that Corbin did not communicate with air traffic controllers in Val d’Or, La Grande or Kangirsuk to verify weather conditions.

Nor did he have the instrument rating that qualifies a pilot to fly under instrument flight rules, required for flying in the cloud cover that was present on June 11.

The coroner’s report, which is based on investigations done jointly with the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force and the Transportation Safety Board, shows that the aircraft’s instruments weren’t even in operation during the flight.

There was a portable GPS found at the crash site, but the tool was too damaged for investigators to extract any data.

The police portion of the investigation did not find any factors to suspect that foul play caused the crash. All three deaths are considered accidental.

The only other element raised by coroner Dr. Martin Clavet, who prepared the report, was the fact that Corbin suffered from a heart condition.

It’s possible, Clavet said, that Corbin could have experienced cardiac distress sometime in the last hours or minutes of the flight, affecting his ability to pilot the plane.

But the autopsy on his injuries suggested Corbin had his hands on the controls during the crash.

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